Ola! Spanish food gets an Indian twist
Being the ardent traveller that I am, I have been on the look-out for Tapas bars in every city in the last couple of years. And that was when I decided to launch my own Tapas Bar in Mumbai.
When I called up my partners and suggested opening a Tapas bar in the city, they weren't quite sure what it was. I told them that it is a place where guests can hang out, let their hair down and enjoy a vast variety of tapas platters that would be offered on the menu.
A tapas menu always includes alcohol
The word ‘tapas’ actually means 'small Spanish savoury dishes', which can either be served hot or cold.
My partners, however, were still sceptical and they asked, “Spanish food? ...... Hmmm.... will that work in our city?"
I smiled and said, “We don’t need to only do Spanish tapas, do we?"
Memories of tapas
A Tapas bar
Spain is the birthplace of Tapas and some of the most interesting ones are Chopitos (batter fried baby squid), Albondigas (meatballs), Calamaris (squid rings), Chorizo al Vino (pork sausage, cooked slowly in red wine), Empanadillas (small turnovers filled with meat or vegetables), Gambas al Ajillo (prawns sauteed with garlic and chopped chilli peppers), Patatas Bravas (made of fried potatoes) and Pincho Morunos (kebabs made with spicy pork, lamb or chicken meat).
The idea is to fill up your table, and this is what I did once in Cambodia when I went to a Tapas bar. I practically ordered everything on the menu, and though there were three of us on the table, it looked like we had not eaten for days. Later, when we ordered desserts, we had to share it with the next table as they were amazed at the vast amount of food we had placed before us. We explained to them that we were chefs.
Similarly, in every city that I visit, there has to be a visit to a Tapas bar on my to-do list.
My travel memories encompass so many of such moments where I go in search of food. I have spent so many years in this industry understanding people, understanding food, understanding habits, trends and demographics.
So that’s when I got my thinking cap on and I went into my lab to decide on what to serve at my own Tapas bar. What would my menu offer? Spanish of course, Indian for sure, Asian for some and then let’s see, can’t forget the vegetarians, can I? A lot of thought and planning went into making my unique Tapas menu over those months.
What are tapas?
Tapas are small plates of food that are served between meals and often accompanied by alcohol. Tapas originated in Spain, and it is said, according to legend, King Alfonso 10th, The Wise King of Spain, had once been stricken with an illness which only allowed him to take in small portions of food with some wine. After recovering from his illness, the king issued a decree that no wine should be served at inns unless it was served with food.
Tapas foods are meant to be shared and savoured with friends
Another legend suggests that the order was executed to prevent peasants, who could often not afford both wine and food, and would drink alcohol on an empty stomach instead of buying something nourishing to eat.
Other historians say that tapas may have originated with farmers and field workers who consumed small meals accompanied by wine throughout the day to provide them energy between meals. No matter what their origin, tapas are the perfect way to experience the flavours and rich culture of Spain.
In Spain, tapas are seldom served without alcohol. They are not meant to be meals in themselves. There are no ‘Tapas restaurants’ – there are only Tapas bars.
Tapas can literally be any type of food - from nuts, olives, and assorted cheeses to roasted meats and stews - so long as the dish is served on a small plate accompanied by alcohol. The most important thing about “tapeo” (the art of eating tapas) is the gathering of people to socialize as they drink and eat.
Can tapas be called finger foods? I won’t say no, but let’s give credit to the Spaniards for such an endearing connotation to food served in this style.
A unique Tapas menu
Kale pakoras created by Chef Rakesh Talwar
Here is the list of tapas that I eventually created for my Tapas bar…
1. Gambas, Calamari and Churrasco. And then I did some fun stuff like, kheema pav (we all love this one, don’t we?)
2. Sambal Prawns (technically Indonesian, but cooked in a tandoor)
3. Amritsari fish Tacos (the Tacos are basically naan)
4. The Juhu Chowpatty platter (featuring vada pav, pav bhaji, bhel and pani puri, and all that you get at the beach).
5. Sambusic (Goat cheese samosa with herb chutney) and of course I had to put fries (but these come with a choice of sprinklers-Truffle, garlic, celery salt).
Here are some of my favourite Tapas foods:
2. Calamari fritters
4. Mini Bacon and cheddar naan
When it comes to Indianising Tapas, I guess I’m the only one in the race at the moment.......and I even want to take them internationally when I can. Indian food, for me, has always been No. 1.
In India, we do need to cater to our taste buds, because that’s the clientele that will be visiting my Tapas bar, so what I’ve done, is taken the Sambusic (which is a lighter version of a samosa) and done a Butter Chicken Sambusic. As for the vegetarians, I added a Samosa chaat to the menu as well.
Ola! to the world of Tapas!
And here's a 'Tapas Recipe' you can try out...
Gambas Pil Pil
Gambas Pil Pil
Prawns, olive oil, garlic, parsley and chilli flakes.
- Heat the pan, add olive oil and garlic and cook.
- Add the prawns, chilli flakes, salt to taste and serve with a baguette and a glass of vino.